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Happy 78th Birthday, MU

Leader in Treatment of Pompe Disease Receives Honorary Degree at Founders’ Day


Happy 78th Birthday MU 1A visionary fellow Hawk, a philanthropic financial leader, and a father who never gave up were highly recognized at this year’s Founders’ Day on Wednesday, October 12.

In honor of celebrating the University’s 78th “birthday,” as President Paul G. Gaffney II described, three leaders in three diverse industries received awards for their contributions to society. Entrepreneur John F. Crowley, who is known as the chairman, President and CEO of biotechnology company Amicus Therapeutics, Inc., received an honorary degree and gave the convocation address during the Founder’s Day ceremony. After his two youngest children were diagnosed with an often fatal, neuromuscular disorder called Pompe disease, Crowley searched for a treatment for them to survive.

During his search, he became cofounder, President and CEO of Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, a biotech start up that did research on the experimental treatment for Pompe disease. Once Novazyme merged with Genzyme Corporation in 2001, the company worked in the development of this drug as Crowley took on as Senior Vice President. Crowley’s story has been portrayed in the film Extraordinary Measures; he also has been written about in the book, “The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million – And Bucked the Med ical Establishment – In a Quest to Save His Children.”

When asked what he considers his most important accomplishment, he replied, “Seeing my kids succeed. When I’m getting ready in the bathroom and doing my morning routine, my daughter Megan rolls in on her motorized wheelchair and I always ask the same question probably every dad asks, ‘how are you doing today?’ and every single day she tells me the same one word answer: ‘awesome’.”

Crowley was introduced by Trustee Kenneth W. Hitchner III, who described him as a husband, father, professional risk-taker, innovative miracle maker, and entrepreneur. “You became a leader in the health care industry after you inspired funding research to cure genetic diseases, when you were faced with a time-sensitive crisis that was threatening your own children,” Hitchner said.

During his convocation address, Crowley, who is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, dwelled on the traits as well as challenges of great leaders. Bob Swanson, Frances Hesselbein and Steve Jobs were people he professed his admiration for. Characteristics he explained were vision “to see things when others don’t see them,” risktaking, optimism, urgency, sacrifice and courage.

George Kolber, the recipient of the Distinguished Community Service Award, is the managing member of GVK Limited Partners, a company which provides venture capital and is aimed at strategic investments and financing. His efforts revolve around building up companies that are troubled or are stuck in the economic downfall.

Happy 78th Birthday MU 2Kolber, who has provided many scholarships for the University, said it felt extraordinary to receive the award. “In business, I’ve learned that everybody should give back to the community. I find it to be quite a team builder; you find people who appreciate the same charity. It’s a good way to make friends with likeminded people. We feel rewarded, but we don’t do it for the reward,” he said.

This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award was received by Chester Kaletkowski, who graduated from the University in 1971. Kaletkowski is President and CEO of South Jersey Healthcare, and worked to build the South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center. The hospital, which was merged into one from three separate hospitals in Vineland, cost $181 million and was built to include 262 private rooms. He also opened a cancer center, cardiac cath lab, and a new obstetrical service.

“I really want people to look at the hospital and say, ‘oh yeah, Chet was able to get that built,” Kaletkowski said.

In his acceptance speech, Kaletkowski mentioned his wife is also a fellow Hawk. “She’ll be the first to tell you, after all these years, that she still has a higher grade point average than me,” he laughed.

Being back on campus, Kaletkowski mentioned he is “reflective on a lot of great memories at Monmouth University.” He spoke of “how much the campus has grown,” and said “the changes are very positive. I’m very proud to be a Monmouth University alumnus.”

As advice to current college students, the three award recipients spoke of two common themes: optimism and persistence. “There is a job for you out there; you just have to work harder to get it. Be hopeful and you will be prepared,” Kaletkowski said.

Kolber encouraged students to take every opportunity that comes to them. “The experience they get from dealing with people will help with everything. Seize every opportunity, no matter how did they might seem.”

Crowley believed in the importance of never quitting. “You’ll get lots of doors slammed in your face, and that’s okay. People are going to tell you you’re too young to know what you’re doing, but don’t ever give up.”

As part of Founders’ Day tradition, University faculty floated through Pollak Theatre wearing the caps and gowns of their Alma Matters. The University Chamber Choir, Concert Chorus and Chamber Orchestra were a combined, musical effort throughout the ceremony. Student leaders and honors school scholars were also recognized by Provost Thomas Pearson, and a welcome speech was given by President Gaffney, as well as greetings by President of Student Government Association Nicole Levy.

At the conclusion of his speech, Crowley said, “Take a little piece of the world. Build a great and lasting vision, lead with your change, be urgent about it, take smart risks, be an optimist, always sacrifice and be courageous.”

PHOTOS COURTESY of Jim Reme

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